Screen Capture from Louisiana Public Broadcasting
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, right, speaks Thursday at Gov. John Bel Edwards' daily COVID-19 press conference.
From the Editor: When can we kick off the economy again?
Opening Louisiana hospitals to non-emergency, non-COVID-19 procedures may be Louisiana’s first step toward a post-coronavirus normal.
The hospital move could happen as soon as May 1, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Friday. But it doesn’t mean Louisiana’s economy will be fully reopened soon.
“We don’t meet the threshold for Phase One,” Edwards said at his daily press conference.
That was a reference to the Opening Up America Again plan rolled out Thursday by President Donald Trump.
Phase One includes continuing quarantine for vulnerable people, maintaining the 6-foot social distance and avoiding nonessential travel. Employers could begin bringing at-home workers back to the workplace in phases.
Reopening hospitals to non-COVID-19 patients will be good for the state’s general level of health and for the economy, the governor said.
Office of Public Health statistics continue to exhibit encouraging signs, Edwards said.
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Louisiana has been fewer than 600 the last couple of days, about half the number reported daily last week. The number was 368 Sunday.
While deaths continue to rise — 412 have been reported since April 13, nearly a third of the total — the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals and on ventilators has been falling or growing very slowly.
But Edwards said a return to something like normal will require more testing and development of an effective vaccine.
The press conference, conducted for a limited number of reporters and live-streamed by Louisiana Public Broadcasting, was held at LSU’s Peter Maravich Activities Center. The PMAC has been turned into a makeshift factory for personal protective equipment, including 1,000 medical gowns a day by this week.
Edwards said gowns remain among the most difficult pieces of PPE to obtain.
He mused again about being able to attend LSU football games after Labor Day.
“I can see myself in LSU Tiger Stadium, cheering the team as they defend their national championship,” Edwards said. “But that may be more aspirational than anything else.”
Phase Two of the president’s reopening plan includes reopening schools and daycare centers. That phase allows for gatherings of up to 50 people and a resumption of nonessential travel.
Phase Three is a return to normal with continued hygiene practices such as hand-washing and some social distancing measures.
As Edwards spoke, Republican lawmakers in Louisiana and across the country continued to call for a reopening of the economy.
In St. Mary Parish, where total nonfarm employment has hovered between 20,000 and 22,000 since the slide in oil prices that began in fall 2014, more than 2,900 people have filed initial claims for unemployment since March 14, according to numbers from the Louisiana Workforce Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A decision by OPEC countries to slash production by nearly 10 million barrels of oil per day beginning May 1 hasn’t been enough to keep oil prices from dropping further.
The price of West Texas intermediate crude was at $13.11 per barrel before Monday’s open. Brent crude, the European benchmark, was at $27.05. Natural gas was at $1.75.
The Energy Information Agency predicted this week that the United States, where oil production has more than doubled since 2010, will once more be a net oil importer by the end of 2020.
Bill Decker is managing editor of The Daily Review.